Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Historical Sew Monthly Challenge #6: Out of Your Comfort Zone

It seemed like the obvious choice for this particular sewing challenge, but I chose to make corded stays for an older girl. The reason it is out of my comfort zone: after seeing the disastrous results over time from a poorly constructed corset, I was nervous to make another one. And, I have never made anything with cording before, unless piping on a garment counts.

Cording is the act of sewing tiny channels into the clothing, and then running cord (more like what you might picture as kitchen string) through them. It stiffens in place of boning, or other supporting method like quilting. I also think it makes the finished product easier to wash.

If you've ever seen the tutorials for a duct-tape double, I used something a little like that for the pattern. Not taping the whole body, and then cutting the whole thing vertically into strips for the corset pattern. It worked really well, and then I just did a basic draft for the straps.

When looking at it, it almost looks like one of those earlier 19th century stays because it has no separating front busk, but the originals from that era come down considerably more. By the mid-19th century, only girls wore straps on their stays (or corsets, its the same type of garment). Next time, I think I will put in a separating front because it is a pain just to get it over her head.
She's the cutest :)

What the item is (and why it was out of your comfort zone): Corded stays (or work corset) for older girl; new cording techniques being used, + a couple hand stitched eyelets.

The Challenge: Out of Your Comfort Zone

Fabric: 1 1/2 yards cotton sateen (the whole thing wasn't used)

Pattern: My own.

Year: Mid-19th century

Notions: Thread, cording, grommets

How historically accurate is it? I have no idea. Maybe 70%; that's just a random number thrown out there.

Hours to complete:  Around 12-14. 

First worn: For pictures

Total cost: About $15; I only had to pay for the fabric and grommet refills.

All in all, I really liked working with the sateen better than cotton twill, mostly because of the soft, lightweight feel. I'm not sure how it'll hold up long-term, but I suspect she'll grow out of it in a couple years anyway.

I also plan on removing the very back cording, the row that's right between the grommets. It likes to collapse (but not so bad on the finished product as I thought), so I thought I would replace it with steel boning. I was trying really hard not to spend too much on this project because of future projects, and shipping from corsetmaking.com is expensive, even for two measly little bones. I'm waiting until I need more supplies from there before ordering. I also have yet to buy any real lacing stuff, but the cording works even if it isn't glamorous.

She's really pleased that she no longer looks 'fluffy' with a dress on; wearing a chemise without a corset on over it does tend to make you a little puffier than usual.

And, just because.....

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Little Bit About Visual Perception

There are plenty of thoughts on corsets; everyone is, I suppose, entitled to their own opinions, but fact should rule over fiction, and not much truth about the matter is used.

The truth about corsets...wait, let me rephrase that...the truth about fashion in the past is visual perception. Corsets were not only part of life, but the way they work is not often thought of much. When lacing a corset, it pulls evenly. This means that corset actually pull you into a round shape. Everyone knows that, normally, the waist is sort of oval shaped, making you flat in the front and very small from the side. When pulled into a round shape, it makes you small in the front, but from the side it may make you appear larger. Sadly, I have no diagrams to describe how this works, but you get the idea.

It should be acknowledged by everyone that people were healthier and naturally smaller back then. I'm not going to say that everyone was skinny, because that is most certainly not true. Corsets are part of what make you appear smaller.

The clothes worn on top also play a huge part as to how we percieve them. Take this picture for example. love this picture, because it throws people way off all the time on Pinterest. 

To use the visual perception example: she wears large skirts, which makes the waist they sit on look very small. Large sleeves also contribute. But the trim is key: notice how the trim on the front makes her look wide at the shoulders, then tapers down into a tiny point. This draws attention to that point, thus creating a 'wow, look at that waist!' moment. In reality, you can see her waist is not actually a part of that point, but the trim makes it look so.

Another fact about corsets: you cannot eat very much while wearing one. Your stomach simply doesn't have space for 'extra', so you basically can only eat the amount that your body needs. I've had it happen; I'll try to eat the amount that I normally do while wearing a corset, and major stomach aches quickly ensue. That is basically the best diet in the world!

Now, this girl, I would say, is sort of 'normal' sized, or appears so because the trim does not 'point' as well as the last one, although in our standards, she is fairly small.

Now, this image  (the one below) has quite a few theories, mainly why she is photographed from the back. I can't think of a reason why not to, with such a beautiful dress and hair. Several suggestions were in mourning, or post-mortem. After the post-mortem theory, one lady commented suggesting that maybe she died of 'small waist syndrome, or lack of oxygen'. I got a laugh, although computers do not convey the tone in which the original is speaking. This lady is also very small compared to modern standards, but I wouldn't say unusually so. Her skirts, very full worn over a hoop, lend the slendering effect I've already mentioned.